Sam is definitely not friends with that asshole Barnes.
Sam's Steve's friend, and he's not a jerk - he went to underwater supervillain jail for them, for shit's sake - but there are still nights he still wakes up with a cold sweat and the feeling of falling off a helicarrier. And he knows Bucky wasn't himself, that there's a difference between him and the Winter Soldier, but turns out, Bucky Barnes might not always be a dead-eyed assassin but he is pretty much always the worst. Sam should have known. Steve's a snarky little shit most of the time. It figures.
They're not friends, but they're sharing a house now, for better or for worse. It's mostly for worse. As far as safehouses go, it's not a bad one. A cabin a couple of hours out of Vancouver, all windows and views of mountains and lush forest dripping with what feels like constant Pacific-Northwest rain. The kitchen's new, and Sam has his own room, and there are vantage points where he can get a good view of the whole perimeter. The problem is not the house. The problem is the people he shares it with, specifically one person, specifically Bucky Barnes, semi-mostly-retired assassin, constant pain in Sam's ass.
Case in point: Sam's in that pristine new kitchen, marble and granite and whatever else, leaning up against the sink and drinking a glass of orange juice and enjoying the early-morning light and the foggy rain hanging soft over the trees, when Barnes ghosts up behind him and presses a freezing-cold band of metal to the back of his neck. Sam jumps about a foot, and his juice goes about a foot in the other direction, and he definitely doesn't squeak but he does let out a startled yell.
"What the fuck, Barnes," he snaps, and Bucky swear to god just looks amused, flexing his traitorously cold hand and shaking his hair out of his face. Sam looks down at his shirt, dripping with basically a full glass of excellent, organic, high-pulp orange juice, sighs in resignation and tugs it off, throws it at Bucky's head. Barnes makes a noise in the back of his throat like a disgruntled cat, fights his way out of the tangle, narrows his eyes slightly in what Sam's gonna take perhaps over-optimistically as an apology. Glances at the coffee pot, and Sam shakes his head.
"I just put a pot on," he tells him, "it'll be done in a minute." Barnes nods once, crosses over to the fridge instead, pulls out the carton of orange juice and pours a glass. "You don't like orange juice," Sam says, confused, and Bucky nods again, hands him the glass. "I... oh. Huh. Thanks, man." Bucky looks satisfied at that, sets two mugs on the counter, settles in to wait.
"It's raining," he says as if this personally offends him, and Sam swallows his juice, can't help but laugh.
"Yeah, it's always raining, you only just notice?" Bucky makes another noise, simultaneously pissed off and dismissive, and looks at the coffee pot as if using his assassin glare will make it brew faster. "Oh," Sam catches on, "oh, you're not a morning person, huh."
"I like mornings just fine. It's the cold and the wet I don't get on with." He switches his gaze from the coffee pot to Sam, and faced with a hundred and eighty-five pounds of dishevelled, cranky, sleepy-eyed James Buchanan Barnes, Sam realizes abruptly he's still shirtless, holds up his half-empty glass as if it'll protect him.
"Take a picture, it'll last longer," he says, because apparently Bucky makes him revert to the mentality of a middle-schooler, and wonder of wonders, Barnes actually blushes. It's subtle but it's there, under the stubble and the hair in his face, and he ducks his head, raises his shoulders a little.
"Didn't mean to stare," he mutters, and Sam knows that's a lie but this is the most like a conversation he and Barnes have had in months, and if Steve were here he'd look so proud, and so Sam isn't gonna interrupt. "It's just, I didn't know you had a tattoo. I like it."
"...Huh," Sam says again, touches his chest absently. "Yeah. You can look, if you want. I don't mind." Bucky looks at him like he's making sure, and then shifts a little closer, looks at it for a minute or so and chews his lip. Sam listens to the coffee brew, and doesn't interrupt.
"Colors are better'n they used to be," Bucky says, finally. "Crisper. Finer linework, too. Some of the guys had em, back in the 107th, but they didn't look anywhere like this."
"Yeah," Sam agrees, "they've come a long way. Everyone's doing it, now. Heck, you could get one, man." He pauses, sips his coffee, frowns at Bucky. "Wait, could you? It wouldn't just fade right off?"
"Nah," Bucky shrugs. "Steve, probably, he'd be outta luck. He got a higher dose of juice than me, his cellular regeneration would burn through it faster than they could do it. He'd maybe get half a day to be proud before it disappeared. But they tried, back in- you know, back then, and it stuck. Tagged me and everything." He lifts his t-shirt, tugs down the waist of his sweatpants to show a faded but legible tattoo on his hipbone. Numbers, in a neat sequence. 17-9-1. It makes Sam's chest hurt, just a little, and it must show on his face because Bucky pulls his pants back up, tucks it away, twists his mouth a little like he's remembering something complicated.
"You could get it removed," Sam says. "Or covered up. Inked over."
"Yeah," Bucky acknowledges, gnaws at his lip again. "I could." The coffee's done; the machine makes a loud noise, and Bucky jumps a little before catching himself, pouring it into the mugs, adding sugar. Sam passes him the milk, and he hands Sam coffee black, two sugars, and Sam has a moment of being deeply weirded out by how normal they're being. He sips his coffee, glances out at the woods and the rainclouds and the brightening silver of the sky.
Bucky drinks his coffee silently, hunched up with both palms wrapped around the mug like it'll warm him through. Sam flicks through his phone messages one-handed. There's a couple from Nat, one from Laura - don't you dare give Clint an out this weekend, we're taking the kids to Disneyland - and he can't help but smile, looks up to find Bucky watching him like he wants to know what Sam's face is about.
"Clint's going to Disneyland," Sam explains, holding up his phone, and Bucky smiles.
"Happiest place on earth," he says, and it's not even sarcastic. Barnes apparently has a soft spot for Clint's kids; Sam's found him and Clint looking through blurry cellphone shots more than once, something nobody else in the team has been able to put up with for more than ten minutes at a stretch. "Tell him to send us a picture," he adds, and Sam rolls his eyes but adds the instruction to his reply.
When he's finished with his coffee, Bucky puts the mug down next to the sink, looks at Sam's chest again, reaches out like he wants to touch it and then stops short, folds himself up small and unthreatening, looks up through his eyelashes.
"You can," Sam says. "If you want to." Bucky flinches a little but does it, very deliberate like it takes an effort, like it requires him to be brave, his fingers light on Sam's skin. Sam doesn't know why he'd expected his hand to be cold the way the metal one is, but it's not, it's warm, fingertips callused from decades of fighting with knives and guns and himself as a weapon. He traces the feathers, looks at Sam a little curiously.
"An oriole?" he asks, and Sam nods.
"Baltimore," he says. "Didn't grow up in DC." Bucky drags his fingers lower, touches the banner curling underneath the bird's wings.
"Your wingman," he says, and Sam smiles.
"Well, you know, DC passed the equality bill, and then they repealed don't ask don't tell, and Riley and I thought, maybe- but he- anyway, you have no idea what that means, right?"
"Sure I do," Bucky says, the ghost of a smile at the corner of his mouth. "Gays in the military. I looked it up."
"You looked it up," Sam repeats, and Bucky nods.
"Yeah," he agrees. "Wanted to know, is all."
"You're full of surprises," Sam tells him, and Bucky nods seriously, presses his palm flat against Sam's tattoo and leaves it there for a beat or two before he reaches for the coffee pot and pours himself another cup, disappears off without saying goodbye.
"Well," Sam says to the empty kitchen, "that was weird."
"You wanna go on a road trip with me?" Bucky asks one morning a few weeks later, drinking coffee in the kitchen like it's some kind of thing they do together now, and Sam pauses.
"A road trip," he says, flat. "Where?"
Bucky's grin is something he hasn't seen before. "Oregon," he says. "Portland. Someone I want to visit."
"This isn't, like, a murder assassin visit, right?" Sam asks. "Just checking." Bucky punches him in the arm for that, but not with the metal hand, so it's probably fine.
"Not a murder assassin visit," he agrees, and he's still almost smiling, and Sam wants to see that face again, but also-
"I mean, yes, but the thing is, we're here because Trudeau gave us asylum, I'm fairly sure that precludes a road trip across an international border into a country where I'm still a fugitive and you're still a wanted criminal."
"Whatever," Bucky says dismissively. "Come on, it'll be fun." Fun is not an adjective Sam has used historically to describe car trips with Bucky, although to be fair they're unlikely to take a fucking Beetle this time, and also Sam will be driving.
"I'm driving," he says, just to make it clear. "And I get to pick the music." Bucky frowns.
"I guess that's fair," he agrees after a minute or two, and Sam is simultaneously suspicious as to why Barnes is going along with this so easily, and extremely curious as to what's in Portland, Oregon, that Bucky is willing to drive there for.
Also, Steve's away on mission, and Sam wasn't invited, and if he doesn't get out of this house he might lose his damn mind. Suddenly the idea of a road trip with Barnes seems like the best idea ever. He'll probably regret thinking this, but: whatever.
"No guns," he says, "no knives, don't make me pat you down, and we're getting Starbucks on the way."
"One knife," Bucky counters, smirking like he's actually teasing, "and you're paying for coffee, and I get extra caramel in mine," and that's probably the best Sam's gonna get, so he nods, grabs his jacket.
"Well, what music do you like?" Sam asks three hours later, venti Americano going cold in his hand, and Bucky does this shrug that Sam has learned is Barnes for I don't know, it's complicated, do you want to know what James Barnes liked seventy years ago or what I picked up in between kill-missions and having my brain scrambled and being put on ice fifty fucking times or what I maybe like now that I'm learning to be a person again. It involves a lot of shoulder movement and frowning, and Sam feels like he's basically an expert at it now.
"There's this woman," Bucky volunteers, when Sam doesn't say anything. "I think she's Canadian, maybe?"
"Celine Dion?" Sam asks, with rising horror, and Bucky shrugs again, less complicated this time, so Sam fiddles one-handed with his phone until he pulls her up on Spotify, scrolls past 'My Heart Will Go On' because that is not happening in his car, holy fuck, and tries 'It's All Coming Back To Me Now'.
"...No," Bucky says, with finality, three minutes later, and Sam has to pull over because he's laughing so hard.
"Sorry," he gets out, "sorry, I didn't- fuck, the lyrics, please play this for Steve sometime when I'm around, his face, your face, holy shit."
"That was mean," Bucky tells him, "you picked that on purpose," and Sam shakes his head, pauses the song.
"Nah, man, you just said Canadian, and she's pretty much the most famous Canadian singer around, not my fault. Okay, so not Celine Dion, thank everything for that, any leads on what it might be?"
Bucky looks like he's thinking hard. "Her voice is kind of squeaky," he says after a moment. "She has a song about really liking someone, I think."
"Carly Rae Jepsen," Sam says very flatly. "You like Carly Rae Jepsen."
"Yeah," Bucky agrees, "yeah, that's the one. She's cute. It's fun."
"Jesus Christ, my life," Sam mutters, and queues up E*MO*TION for their illegal trip across the US border.
It turns out that what's in Portland, Oregon that Bucky is willing to drive seven hours for is a tattoo shop.
"Seriously," Sam says, turns his head to look at Barnes with some disbelief. "Seriously. A tattoo shop. Seriously."
"Did my research. Found it online. I like their style."
"Right," Sam accepts, "of course you did, that makes total sense, I don't know why I expected anything different."
When they get inside, Bucky smiles at the receptionist in a way that is genuinely charming. Sam definitely does not want to see it again. "Hi," Bucky says, "I made an online booking with, uh, Kirsten?"
"Oh, sure," the receptionist says, checking the notebook in front of her, "it's James, right?"
"That's me," Bucky agrees, and there it is again, the kind of smile that Sam has literally never seen before. Bucky's eyes crinkle up at the corners and they're warm and blue and Sam suddenly feels like he has been cheated out of a one hundred percent better version of the Bucky Barnes Experience. The smile stays through being shown through to the back, and meeting the artist, and seeing the sketch she's drawn up, and then Bucky is stripping off his shirt and Sam clears his throat.
"I'll just, uh, go wait in the-"
"No," Bucky says, "stay," and Kirsten grins, tilts her head toward an empty chair, so Sam just sits down and tries not to feel awkward.
"So," Kirsten says, squints at Bucky as if she's evaluating his potential. "How do you want this?"
"Peonies and poppies here," Bucky tells her, gesturing at the left side of his chest, "and the others curling up, kinda, up and around?"
"Over your collarbone?" she asks. "That's gonna sting, over the bone, and- I know you said you're healed, and all, but you're okay with me working around the scarring?"
"It's fine," he says, "it's okay, I want it," and she nods, lays the stencils on, sketches in guiding lines. "Gonna need you to tie your hair back," she tells him, and Bucky scrapes it back into a loose bun, makes an expression as if he's not sure about having his hair off his face. "Okay, we're good to go, you ready?" Bucky nods, and she leans in with the tattoo machine, inks the first line, and Sam catches the flinch of Bucky tightening his jaw.
"You don't gotta hold my hand," Bucky says after a minute or two. "It's not like it hurts."
"Sure it does, asshole," Sam tells him, but he knows it comes out almost fond, and his hand is warm, and Bucky apparently leaves it at that.
When the artist goes over the edges of scar tissue, Bucky tightens his grip, and Sam doesn't say anything at all.
Driving back, Barnes is quiet, in a way that's maybe different to his usual lurking quietness. Sam glances at him every so often, and they're somewhere just south of Seattle when he finally catches Bucky looking back.
"So," Sam says, carefully casual, eyes on the road, "I get the poppies, but forget-me-nots? Seriously?"
"They're pretty," Bucky says, very innocently, and then smirks, gives Sam a shit-eating grin. "There's rosemary too. For remembrance."
"Oh yeah? The internet teach you that too?"
"No," Bucky frowns, looking outraged, "it's from Shakespeare, okay, Jesus, you never read Hamlet?"
"Okay, fine, you're practically a professor," Sam mutters, and yawns. "Ugh, how did you convince me into a fifteen-hour round trip without an overnight, this is the worst."
"I can drive for a while," Bucky offers, "if you want to sleep." Sam considers it. He might wake up in the middle of an international terrorist dispute, but that's basically happened before, and Barnes has actually mostly learned how to drive according to civilian road laws now. It's probably not the worst idea to agree to. He's probably fairly unlikely to rip the steering wheel out of a car he's driving.
"Fine," he capitulates, "fine, but no more Carly Rae Jepsen, I'm never gonna get that song out of my head as it is."
When he wakes up, it's slow, an unfolding back into consciousness in small increments. The car is warm - Bucky must have turned the heat up - and smells like coffee, fried food, the faint tang of antiseptic. Bucky is humming under his breath, something too quiet for Sam to pick out the melody, and they're on a back road, no other cars. Sam blinks out at the dark around them, tries to get his bearings.
"We're not too far," Bucky murmurs when he sees Sam's awake. "There's some food, if you're hungry. Wasn't sure what you'd want." Sam digs into the paper bag, comes up with two apple pies and a carton of fries, mostly cold. He puts the fries back, pulls the first pie out of its cardboard, washes it down with coffee that's almost definitely Bucky's given it's milky and too-sweet. "That's mine, asshole," Bucky tells him, confirming his theory, and Sam makes eye contact, drains the last mouthful very deliberately. "Okay, just so you know, I backwashed in that," Bucky says, smirking, and Sam shrugs, throws the empty cup at him.
"How's the ink?" he asks through a mouthful of the second apple pie, and he's dropping flakes of pastry all over himself, it's kind of disgusting, but Bucky once grabbed him by the face and threw him across the room so whatever, he can deal. "Still hurt?"
"Nah," Bucky says, eyes on the road, and rolls out his shoulder a little. "It's probably healed by now."
"Okay, that I'm jealous of," Sam says, "seriously, it never hurts?"
"My arm does," Bucky says, quiet, and Sam focuses on Bucky's hands on the steering wheel, his index finger tapping an arrhythmic beat. "My shoulder, I mean. In the mornings, especially. And when it's cold. Or wet. Something about the nerve damage, I guess."
"Oh," Sam realizes, "oh, shit, and our safe house is in the rainiest fucking spot in the world, do you- we could organize physical therapy, fuck, you should have said-"
"It's fine," Bucky says, "seriously, it's fine, it's not, I just- you asked, is all." He glances sideways, and Sam nods.
"Crank the heat up in the house, if that helps," he suggests, and Bucky actually smiles a little.
"Yeah, okay. Maybe I will. Given someone has a habit of walking around with no fuckin' shirt on. Even if the gas bill will give Steve a coronary, which is ridiculous, because we can pay for the damn thing these days. Now give me a bite of that apple pie before you eat it all."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Sam says, "I thought you bought this food for me," and tries to shove an entire half apple pie into his mouth. Bucky takes one hand off the wheel, reaches over and fights him for it, and when it ends Bucky has pastry in his hair and Sam has pie filling on his shirt.
"What a shame," Bucky says, raises an eyebrow, "guess you'll have to take it off," and if it were anyone else Sam would be having suspicions about this. Instead he just shrugs, finds paper napkins and scrubs off the worst of it.
"Come on, dude, you'll have to try harder than that to get me undressed," he says, deadpan, and that makes the other eyebrow go up, but Bucky's got his eyes on the road and a very serious face all of a sudden. Sam drinks the other coffee, bone-cold by now, and studies the line of Bucky's jaw, the way his hair is escaping in soft tendrils from the bun, and tries very hard not to wonder what that serious expression might mean.
Apparently Bucky decides that driving to Portland on a regular basis and also covering himself with incredibly glorious floral tattoos is the new best use of his time, because he disappears every few weeks, reappears the next day with new lines of ink curling out from underneath his sleeve or collar or, once, the hem of his shirt as he reaches up for a bag of flour on the top shelf of the pantry. Sam wouldn't say he's watching for glimpses, exactly, but he is curious, about the extent of them and the flowers and how they fit together, whether they stretch over his ribs and his shoulderblades, whether they're all the soft, muted colors Sam saw that first time.
Steve doesn't say anything about it, not to Bucky and not to Sam, until one day it's actually warm, sun pouring in through open windows and pooling golden on their floors, and Bucky stretches himself out on the deck in nothing but a singlet and a pair of soft grey sweatpants like he's preparing to soak up as much heat as possible. Sam has to take a deep breath, and then sits down next to him, sunglasses on, and turns his face up toward the sky. It is pretty nice, with the breeze and the sound of birdsong and also whichever pop starlet Bucky has discovered now, and Sam takes a brief moment to actually appreciate his life right now.
"Wait, are those gardenias?" Steve asks from the kitchen door, and Sam opens his eyes, looks from Steve to Bucky.
"Had a sister," Bucky says, and it's almost not a question. Sam doesn't miss the way he flicks his gaze to Steve, though, and Steve nods, smiles a little wet-eyed.
"Rebecca," he agrees. "Yeah, Buck, you did."
"Becca," Bucky says, soft. "Pretty sure she loved gardenias. Had a fella who sent her a bunch of them, once. Made the whole house smell like flowers for a week."
"She married him, last I heard," Steve tells him, and Bucky rolls his eyes.
"That mook," he says, but Sam watches the way he touches the white flowers on the cap of his shoulder, metal fingers pressed against delicate ink. The next time he sees Bucky in a singlet, the gardenias have been joined by little white flowers, twined in and around them like a wreath, and Sam has to squint a few seconds before he recognizes them. Orange blossoms, a circlet of them, and he's seen his grandma's wedding photos enough times that he knows which flowers all the brides back then wore in their hair.
Oh, he thinks, and realizes he's having some inconvenient feelings about Bucky Barnes, biggest problem of his life.
It's not that Barnes isn't a jerk anymore, or anything. It's just- Sam's coming home from picking up more groceries and goes through the Starbucks drive-through and thinks, oh, Barnes likes caramel, I should get him a frappuccino, and then he's home with the tray of drinks and realizing buying treat coffee for each other is not what kind-of-enemies usually do, maybe.
"Here you go, cryofreeze," he says to cover it, hands Bucky the frappuccino, and Steve looks confused and Bucky looks neutral-shading-to-cranky until he sips the coffee, and then he looks pleased, happy in a way that doesn't even hurt Sam's chest to see, and oh fuck, Sam can't help it, now that he's seen the alternate Bucky Barnes Experience he does want to see it again, maybe like all of the time.
Then Bucky discovers, somehow, that Sam is into nature documentaries, and Sam gets back from mission one day feeling extremely tired and bruised pretty much everywhere, collapses onto the couch and finds that someone's downloaded and queued an entire new series of David Attenborough. He hits play on the first one, falls asleep about five minutes in, wakes up in the middle of the night with a blanket tucked over his shoulders and a lukewarm microwave burrito resting on his hip. Sam's too tired to be surprised, at this point; he just tugs up the blanket, eats the burrito in about three bites, turns off the tv.
They circle around each other like this for months, working out how to be kind to each other in a way Sam knows Steve is both perplexed and amused by. Bucky doesn't put his cold hand on the back of Sam's neck. Sam doesn't put salt in Barnes' coffee. Bucky keeps getting tattoos, and blooms with it, flowers growing down the line of his forearm, up over both collarbones, daisies wrapped around his wrist. Sam wants, more than ever, to touch, but Bucky's not offering, and Sam's not asking.
The morning he wakes up to discover Bucky already up and making pancakes, he's deeply confused.
"Thought you weren't a morning person," he mutters. The kitchen smells of coffee and melting butter, and Barnes has flour in his stubble, and he just raises an eyebrow, flips a pancake like his murder arm was designed for a short-order cook and not, you know, murder.
"I'm not," he says, "didn't go to bed, I just got in." He passes Sam a mug of coffee, and after a few mouthfuls Sam's awake enough to notice 1) Bucky's hair is in a bun again, like he's someone who's actually learned about food hygiene, and 2) the softness of it all, waking up to coffee and pancakes and Bucky Barnes with his hair pulled back and his t-shirt showing off all the flowers on his skin, Sam kind of can't actually breathe.
"You go to Portland again?" he asks, sips his coffee to cover himself, and Bucky nods, looks down at the inside of his forearm.
"Yeah, drove out yesterday morning," he says. "Nothing big this time around."
"Take me with you next time," Sam suggests, and that gets Bucky surprised, eyebrows shooting back up his forehead and eyes wide.
"Didn't think you-" he starts, and then shakes his head. "Yeah, okay, sure." He reaches out, steals Sam's coffee right out of his hand, takes a big sip and makes a face. "Ugh, no milk, I got enough of that in the war," he complains, like a total asshole who is drinking Sam's coffee and bitching about it instead of just pouring himself one from the pot that's right there, and Sam shoves him a little, thinks about wrestling for it, reconsiders. He likes this shirt. He likes this shirt without coffee all over the front of it. But he takes the opportunity to lean in closer, grab Bucky's wrist, tilt his arm to see the new tattoo.
"A snowdrop," he says, and can't help it, traces the line of it down Bucky's forearm. Bucky heals quickly but it's still fresh, probably tender, because he shivers just a little.
"Yeah," he agrees. "They survive the winter. Bloom in the snow. Figured it was apt."
"Oh my god," Sam says, and it should take more than a snowdrop tattoo and Bucky saying something that snaps his heart in two, but suddenly these months and months of thinking fuck, maybe he's not an asshole and okay so he is an asshole but what if I love him, maybe are all crashing together and Sam knows it's dumb but he can't not, and grabs Bucky by the hair, drags him in for a kiss that involves a lot of teeth and crowding Bucky up against the kitchen counter and maybe Sam's hands tracing out Bucky's tattoos under his shirt.
"Fuckin' finally," Bucky says afterwards, and Sam blinks.
"What the fuck," he manages, "what the fuck, finally, Barnes, you-"
"I've been waiting," Bucky says, petulant, "and, like, being nice, and stuff, and I-" he gestures at himself, the flowers, and Sam blinks.
"You know it's usually traditional to buy someone a bunch of flowers, not tattoo them on yourself and wait in hope?" Sam tells him, and Bucky laughs and laughs.
"Oh shit, I burned the pancakes," he says when he finally catches his breath, reaches over and grabs the frying pan with his left hand, yanks it off the heat.
"Fuck the pancakes," Sam says, and gets Barnes' shirt off, drops it on the kitchen floor.
"Good thing I turned the thermostat up, huh," Bucky mutters against Sam's mouth, and Sam smirks, and thinks they should probably take it to the bedroom, eventually, but he's been shirtless enough in this kitchen it's definitely Barnes' turn now.
He takes his time, afterwards, to look at all of Bucky's flowers the way he hasn't been able to before, to touch while he's looking and, okay, maybe to pinch him black and blue when he tries to wriggle out from underneath Sam's weight.
"You didn't cover this up," Sam says, trails fingers light over the dip in Bucky's hip muscle, and Bucky squirms gratifyingly.
"That fucking tickles," he says, jaw clenched, and then, softer, "well, I mean, it- it's still me, you know?"
"Yeah," Sam agrees, "I know," and decides he's gonna dedicate some time to mapping out every tattoo with his tongue, maybe. It takes a long time. That's fine. They've got all day.
"You know," Sam tells him later, sketches space across his chest, "I know what would look great right here."
"Hmmm?" Bucky asks, drags his palm lazily up the bare skin of Sam's back, and Sam leans in, presses a kiss to the blank spot under Bucky's collarbone.
"A bird," he suggests, "a falcon," and raises his eyebrows. Bucky rolls his eyes.
"A fuckin' bluebird of happiness, more like," he mutters, and Sam yanks his hair. "Ow! Jesus Christ, what was that for, I was being serious, I was having a moment, here."
"I liked you better when you were an asshole."
"No you didn't."
"No," Sam agrees, between kisses. "I didn't."
The bird, when Barnes gets it, is a redwing thrush tucked in against ivy and lilies of the valley and maidenhair ferns, and maybe Sam should be mad about how small and round it is, pretty much the least majestic bird he's ever seen, but he's embarrassingly earnest about it in a way that Barnes laughs at. Sam puts salt in his coffee for a week. Bucky puts his hand in the freezer for twenty minutes and then presses it against Sam's ribs. Sam changes Bucky's ringtone to Celine Dion, and deletes all the Carly Rae Jepsen off his iTunes account. Bucky covers Sam with Angry Birds temporary tattoos while Sam's too dead asleep to notice, and he completes an entire fucking mission with a furious bird transfer on his fucking forehead. Basically it's business as normal, except Sam is getting a Bucky Barnes Experience full of softness and smiling and eyes exactly the shade of forget-me-nots, and they might not be friends, exactly, but he's pretty sure he wouldn't change a damn thing.